WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the U.S Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, and U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Wednesday introduced a privileged resolution to require the U.S. Department of State to examine and report on Saudi Arabia’s domestic human rights practices and its involvement in the war in Yemen. The effort sets up a fast-tracked debate and vote in the Senate on Riyadh’s human rights record.
Murphy and Lee’s resolution draws upon Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act which allows Congress to vote to request information on a particular country’s human rights practices from the State Department Upon introduction of this resolution, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has ten days to put the request for information before the Committee for consideration. If the Committee does not do so, Murphy and Lee can force a floor vote on the motion to discharge from the Committee. If the resolution passes in the Senate, the administration must submit the report within 30 days or all security assistance to Saudi Arabia is cut off.
“It's impossible for the United States to assemble a global human rights and pro-democracy coalition if we continue to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s worsening human rights record. The Saudi government tortures political dissenters, imprisons human rights defenders, brutally murders journalists, helps their citizens evade justice in the United States, and uses our weapons to commit war crimes. The administration has not acted on its commitment to re-evaluate the relationship with Saudi Arabia, so it is incumbent on Congress to take action. This resolution sets in motion a process that will allow Congress to debate the deteriorating human rights record of Saudi Arabia and how that should impact U.S. policy going forward,” said Murphy.
“U.S. weapons don't belong in the hands of human rights abusers. This resolution is a simple and fair request for the State Department to provide additional information regarding Saudi Arabia's human rights record. I'm proud to support this resolution because the people and their elected representatives have a right to know the types of activity we are tacitly supporting,” said Lee.
Last year, Murphy outlined the steps the U.S. should take to recalibrate our military assistance to Saudi Arabia and authored an op-ed for Foreign Policy to lay out why the United States needs to rethink its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Last Congress, Murphy, Lee, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the National Security Powers Act, legislation to reclaim Congress’s critical role in national security matters that specifically safeguards congressional prerogatives in the use of military force, emergency powers and arms exports. In 2019, Murphy and Lee successfully led a resolution to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen pursuant to the War Powers Act, which was ultimately vetoed by President Trump.
A one pager of the bill is available here. A copy of resolution text is available here.